© ATC 2010

Michael John Loubser


The Tenets of Taekwondo and their role in my life


I was raised in a Christian home by Christian parents and Christianity has given me the moral system by which I live my life. Obviously, as with most Christians, the appeal of martial arts was tainted slightly by the fact that many of them have a slightly strange spiritual feel to them. To just say the word “chi” to the average Christian would probably be enough to send them into a blind panic and I am and was, without a doubt, classifiable as an average Christian. As a result, on the night of my first Taekwondo class, I received a large surprise. At the end of the class, I heard everybody recite what I now know to be the tenets of Taekwondo, the moral standard that it is the duty of every Taekwondoin to uphold: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. These were exactly the ideals that I placed at the very centre of my life as a Christian. The purpose of this writing is to explain how my understanding of these tenets has come to alter my approach to life. In short, the very essence of this is the manner in which Taekwondo has reinforced the morals and values that are the core of who I am.


            In particular, I will be focusing on the tenets of Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. While all of the tenets have influenced my life in one way or another, the effects of these two are the most profound.


            Self-Control is something that I have always struggled with. Of all the emotions that a person can experience, I can honestly say that I experience rage with the greatest level of intensity. Indeed, I have a smashed window, a hole in my cupboard door and a table that no longer stands up to prove this. I know that I generally appear fairly relaxed and jovial, but this is a carefully crafted front that has been perfected over the years to hide the chaos that lives in me. John Dryden once said: “Beware the fury of a patient man”; a saying that I have always felt summed me up rather well. In the past, my anger was something that I feared and hid from; a part of myself that I hated and refused to acknowledge. Taekwondo has played a significant role in teaching me to tame this beast. In particular, Taekwondo has taught me how to achieve something with true strength, rather than with violence. This lesson begins, as it must, with the physical. Taekwondo trains us in the brutal application of physical force, while at the same time teaching the wisdom of restraint. We are taught how to wield immense power and by that power, learn that often, we don’t need to. We learn true humility, which I believe must come from spiritual strength, rather than weakness. A humble person has the ability to act violently from a position of immense strength and chooses not to. While this lesson begins in the physical world, it translates very readily to the mental and spiritual worlds in which I spend so much of my time.


            Secondly, Indomitable Spirit.


            “Here lie 300, who did their duty”. Indomitable Spirit means to have the strength to stand for what is right, no matter the odds and no matter the consequences; to fight against the darkness, no matter what. To illustrate how this tenet has influenced my life, I will make use of a story that we all know, namely Mike’s Famous Ankle Explosion Bonanza. The story, in brief, is as follows: At training one night, I got a landing wrong while doing special techniques and horribly dislocated my ankle. I do not intend to relate the entire story; rather, I want to elaborate on what was going through my mind on that evening. I recall trying to put on a brave face as I was wheeled out of the do-jang to the waiting ambulance (which I rather suspect fooled no-one). I remember shouting to someone: “I’ll be back! Give me some time and I’ll be back!”, but in truth, I didn’t believe it. At the time, I wasn’t even certain that I would ever walk again without a limp (and according to the surgeon, that belief was perilously close to the truth). I was rushed to the ER, where that same very skilled surgeon did an extremely risky emergency procedure that prevented my ankle from physically coming apart. A week later, I underwent the most painful surgical procedure that I have ever endured, followed by several months of slow recovery. Through all that time, I wondered whether or not I would be able to return to Taekwondo. When I finally returned to training, I remember being completely terrified. Every move I performed held the potential for a repeat of the ankle dislocation, something that I was convinced would cripple me if it occurred a second time. Every training session became an exercise in mental discipline. If I wanted to carry on doing what I loved, I would have to make a conscious choice, every single time. It is now almost three years later and I still have to make that choice, every single time I train. I have learned that sometimes, in order to achieve great and noble things, one must not count the cost. To truly stand for something great, you must be prepared to sacrifice everything that you are for something more than yourself. This is something that I have always believed, but in Taekwondo, I have finally found the proof.

© ATC 2010